Make Your Dog a Good Boy
Dogs have their own way of interacting with the world, and we humans need to understand that they don’t always have the same understanding of things that we do. Because of this, we must be their guardians through the things which can often times be overwhelming, confusing, or even outright dangerous for them. With this in mind, we at Chew N Play have assembled a list of six essential commands that every dog should know:
- Lie Down
- Leave it
- Watch Me
Some of these may be self-explanatory to you, but a few might leave you wondering why it’s important for your dog.
Teach Your Dog to Listen
Though some of these commands are more commonly seen, and heard, than others, they should all be treated with equal importance for your dog’s wellbeing. Let’s go over some examples of each of them so we can understand why they’re important.
Usually paired with the stay command, sit is an important command for any dog. In an unpredictable world, it’s always a good idea to have the ability to “park” your dog somewhere and be sure he won’t move without permission. Especially in the event that things are moving quickly and you can’t keep track of all of it at once, the sit command can keep your dog safe and secure.
Teach Your Dog to Sit
Sit is one of the simplest and easiest to reinforce. Simply hold a treat and raise it over your dog’s head. Once it gets high enough, he should sit down to look up at it. Associate this action with the command “sit”, a hand gesture to provide a visual cue, and praise for a job well done. Finally, reward your dog with the treat.
Your dog is always curious and is susceptible to the many distractions of life. A stay command can help to override these distractions and keep him somewhere safe. Imagine that your dog gets out somehow and begins running off toward the road. Being able to call your dog and command him to stay could save him from a great deal of danger, not to mention save you the energy you would spend running after him.
Teach Your Dog to Stay
Pick a position for your dog and offer the “stay” command, usually paired with a hand gesture. If your dog stays for a few seconds, promptly reward and congratulate him. Repeat the process, adding increasingly longer intervals of times for the stay. Once he’s doing a good job staying for a while, consider stepping away from him and increasing the distance. A good dog should stay even when you’re far away!
Being able to call your dog to you is a valuable skill anytime and anywhere, but it can also help keep him out of serious trouble. Should he get out, slip off his leash or collar, or just be hiding somewhere you can’t find him, the come command can immediately put him back in front of you.
Teach Your Dog to Come
Come can get complicated, as there are many potential mistakes you can make along the way. To begin, it helps if your dog already knows stay, but you can begin before he’s mastered this command as well. Take a few steps away from your dog, give the “come” command, pair with a hand gesture, and then reward for success should he come running up toward you. Repeat this process and reward your dog with praise and treats for success.
Take note that this command, while very important for your dog to learn, can easily become associated by them with other things. If you frequently call your dog and then make them do something they don’t want to, or call them in a stern voice that leads them to believe that they will only be in trouble if they come, it can lead to stubborn dogs that don’t want to come when called. Be sure to always call your dog with a positive and pleasant tone that gets them excited, drop close to the ground and clap your hands if necessary, and always praise them for success.
Similar to sit, the lie down command helps to put your dog in a particular position that make it easier for him to obey. It differs, however, in that it keeps your dog in a much more relaxed posture, making it difficult for him to indulge in certain unwanted behaviors, such as jumping or pulling. It also is helpful for greeting, grooming, and relaxing. It is especially good if you have a high energy dog who likes to jump on guests or run around, as it teaches him to be calm when a visitor arrives.
Teach Your Dog to Lie Down
Once your dog has mastered the sit, this one becomes easy. Simply have your dog sit, then present a treat in front of them. Hold it close to their chest and slowly lower it toward the ground until your dog lowers himself into a down position. Pair with the “down” command and a hand signal, and always praise your dog for success. This command can pair quite well with a “stay” command as needed.
One thing to take note of, however, is the condition of the ground below them. In certain environments, a down command may be uncomfortable, such as hot asphalt or a brambly patch of ground. Always be considerate of your dog’s comfort.
Depending on where you and your dog live and what sorts of adventures the two of you get up to, this may be the most important one of all. If you live somewhere where your dog’s curious mind might lead him to investigate things that are dangerous for him, such as feral animals strolling through the yard or potentially toxic foods or medicines, leave it can teach him to ignore or even avoid certain hazards.
Teach Your Dog Leave It
This one can be a bit more involved, but it is well worth it to master this command, as it could potentially save your dog’s life in the event he should get his nose into something potentially toxic to him.
The first step is to associate the act of giving him a treat with your express permission. To do this, be sure that each time you offer your dog a treat, you tell him “okay” or something of similarly encouraging nature. Once this is established, the leave it training can continue. Change the course and place a treat in your closed palm and hold it in front of him. Ignore him as he sniffs and licks at your hand and tries to uncover the treasure until he gets bored. As soon as he shows a definitive lack of interest, open your hand, say “okay”, praise him, and give him the treat. Repeat this while pairing the command “leave it” to associate him ignoring the treat with the reward.
Once this has been done, move to a higher difficulty by placing the treat directly before him. As soon as it’s in place, give the “leave it” command. If he’s passed the previous steps, he should ignore the treat completely until you allow it.
Important: Always pick up the treat from this step and replace it, or make him think it has been replaced, with another treat. Do not associate the treat that he was told to leave with the ultimate “okay” command. This will help him to understand that the only treats he is supposed to eat are those that were presented from your hand, with the “okay” command.
Usually a tool for teaching dogs better walking etiquette, the watch me command focuses all your dog’s attention on you. This is particularly helpful in a distracting environment where his wandering focus might get him into trouble, keeping him safe and focused on you for further commands or correction. For example, if out on a walk and another dog walks by who you don’t want your dog looking at, the watch me command can be helpful to keep him focused on you and your voice. Another common example is the presence of a passing wild animal, such as a deer or squirrel. Many dogs cannot help but lunge and bark when they see these wild animals, so the watch me command is especially useful here.
Teach Your Dog Watch Me
A good command for keeping your dog focused on you when there are a lot of distractions present, “watch me” helps you hold your dog’s focus before giving additional commands. To teach it, begin with a treat and encourage your dog to look at it. Once he focuses on it, praise him and reward him with the treat. Next, pair his focus with the command “watch me”. Consider if you want to associate a hand gesture with it, such as pulling the treat to your forehead. Once your dog is consistently looking at you on command, begin to practice increasing the amount of time you share eye contact. The final stage of this training is to do it when there are many distractions present. Do not be discouraged if your dog regresses a few steps once you go outside with many different sounds and smells, as this is perfectly normal. Simply continue practicing and, as always, continue rewarding him for his success.
Teaching Your Dog
Although not all of these commands will be used as often as the others, they should all be treated with the same importance, and practiced with the same diligence in the event that they should ever be needed. Daily training is a good idea for dogs of all ages, as it helps to keep them refreshed and obedient, and it’s a lot of fun! Remember, any dog can learn these commands with enough time, effort, and patience. You and your dog are always eager to have fun together, and you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities for the two of you, but safety is always important. Your training will provide them the tools they need to stay safe in an unpredictable world, and it will also make him happier because he gets to spend more time with his favorite person!